I was born in Silwan to a Palestinian family that had to move to Jericho when I was eleven years old. Until then, I had never met a Jew or an Israeli and I had no idea what ‘Occupation’ meant. My first encounter with Israelis was on the way to elementary school, when an army jeep blocked my path. The soldiers spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand; they snatched my bag and emptied it onto the pavement.
After that I was afraid to go to school alone, and my father would accompany me. Soldiers stood across from the school, and the children would whistle and throw stones. The soldiers would scatter tear gas. Sometimes the school would be closed for days or weeks.
At night, I would hear the young people demonstrating in the city streets – yelling, burning tires, throwing stones. After that, soldiers would enter houses, and take out youngsters to clean the roads.
Once they knocked down the door to our house, very loudly. I saw a soldier standing in the dark with a weapon, and my father running at him, shouting in Hebrew. The soldiers took my father away; I didn’t know where to. I stayed with my sisters and my mother. We cried all night, not knowing if my father would make it back alive. My father returned in the morning with marks covering his body. He didn’t speak, he just sat on the side quietly and smoked. That was the moment I got lost in fear and anger.
I started throwing rocks and tagging walls with graffiti messages. I was arrested for the first time at age 14 – for raising a Palestinian flag.
When the Oslo Agreements were signed, I was very supportive. I wanted peace and a state. I volunteered for the police force. In 1996 we went to guard a settlement near Jericho. We got stuck between Palestinians protesters throwing stones and soldiers retaliating by firing live bullets on the protesters. My friend was wounded. The ambulance that came to evacuate him was shot at. The paramedic was shot in the back 3 times. My friend was killed.
I had been through too much. I felt that the Jewish nation could not be trusted and I no longer thought peace was possible. I decided I would be more active in the Second Intifada… yet exactly the opposite happened. A friend invited me to a meeting in Beit Jalla. When I arrived, I discovered there were Israelis there. At first I refused to sit or talk to them, so I sat on the side. I heard an Israeli woman say, “We’re allowed to defend ourselves and we’re allowed to defend our people, but what happened in Gaza – to blow up a whole building and kill several families to take out one terrorist, that’s not acceptable to me. That is not my people, that is not my army.”
That moment changed my life. I wanted to hug her. After that I kept meeting with Israelis, learning about them – befriending them. My entire perspective shifted. I went to more and more joint gatherings. I met people, who only years before were my enemy – who might have shot bullets in the direction of me or my friends. Yet today we work together for peace, justice, security, equality and dignity.
I know that we can only heal this situation if we work together. We can only end this conflict, and heal the sorrow and pain of both our nations, if we work together cooperatively and peacefully. Peace cannot come through war. Freedom will only come when we break out of the chains that bind us: the chains of hatred, of violence and of revenge.
Love truly is the strongest force on this earth. A revolution of love is the only thing that can save us.